The start of Wonshik’s second year of college has arrived all too soon. The summer break has drawn to a close, bringing with it the end of staying up until the sun is rising, a major regret now his mother is ripping open his curtains and dragging him out of bed by his ankle at half past seven.
He groans at the bright light and at the sight of the sky outside. Summer is still trying to cling on as long as possible, but the sky today looks dull and grey and he knows it will be best not to tempt the weather. He tugs a shirt off a hanger in his wardrobe, red and black check, arguing that he can roll up the sleeves if the sun decides to show itself.
Luckily for him, his mother has already laid out his breakfast, though he’s left on his own to brush his teeth and nearly puts his deodorant on his toothbrush. Somehow, after much grunting and fumbling, he manages to be out the front door on time to meet with Jaehwan who lives only a few roads away.
His friend is known for his ready smile and bubbly personality and his ability to attract flocks of girls no matter where he goes. It isn't something that’s ever interested Wonshik, but it always makes Jaehwan the envy of most of the other guys in their year. However, when Wonshik meets him at the end of the street, he’s quite glad to find his friend is in much the same state as him.
His cheeks are pale, eyes watery from a recent yawn, and his hair looks a bit on the wild side, though Wonshik is sure it will be met with sighs of endearment from all of his admirers.
They greet each other with no enthusiasm, and after a totally unremarkable twenty-minute walk, their college looms ahead of them. The red brick buildings look about as enthusiastic as the students.
They've just passed through the gates when a shout rings out behind them. Wonshik glances back to see Hakyeon, another friend, jogging towards them, a bright if mischievous grin on his face.
Hakyeon lives in the opposite direction so he can never travel with them, but his house is closer and they'd spent a lot of time there the previous year whenever they'd had matching free periods.
His dark hair is smoothed perfectly over his forehead as usual and the sleeves of the grey sweatshirt he’s wearing hang down past his fingertips.
"Taekwoon spent the night," he announces, proudly.
Ah. So that explains the sweatshirt.
It isn't the first time Taekwoon has slept over, not even close, but Hakyeon always acts as if it is, like a hopeless romantic – though, really, Wonshik thinks Hakyeon just likes to remind them that he’s getting some and they are not.
"He obviously wasn't spent enough. You're still walking," Jaehwan observes and Hakyeon bristles.
"My parents were home!"
"They allowed him to stay over even though it's the start of college?" Wonshik asks, unable to keep a note of envy from his voice. His parents would never allow his boyfriend to stay over at all, let alone on a weeknight. That is, if he were to ever have one.
"You know what Taekwoon's like," Hakyeon explains with a dreamy sigh, his hands on his cheeks. "A flutter of his eyelashes and they're wrapped around his little finger."
Wonshik catches Jaehwan's attention behind Hakyeon's back and they both roll their eyes.
Thankfully, they can catch a reprieve from their gushing friend once they get into the atrium and are ushered into the refectory to collect their timetables. A row of tables is set up against the opposite wall, each with a sign behind indicating which surnames need to queue where. He and Jaehwan get in line in front of 'JKL' while Hakyeon splits off for 'ABC' three rows down.
"What are the chances they'll have broken up by this time next week?" Wonshik asks.
Jaehwan glances over at Hakyeon, who’s bouncing on his toes by the window, and strokes his chin as if deep in consideration. "One hundred percent," he answers bluntly and Wonshik snorts.
Before, it had actually been a game they could play – even placing bets a couple of times – but, after a two-year relationship full of break-ups and drama, they've gotten too good at guessing the cycle and it got to the point where no one was willing to make a bet they were sure to lose.
To people on the outside, they know their attitude seems callous but the two always get back together within a week. They’re such a good match, their opposite personalities complementing each other perfectly, even if Hakyeon doesn't know when to stop sometimes and Taekwoon is lacking in the public affection department. They just aren't mature enough to realise that every little argument doesn't need to end with a break up, unable to talk things over like adults (which they’re so close to legally being).
Wonshik sighs and they stand in silence for a while after that, the haze of sleep still lingering after a whole summer of staying up until five AM. Glancing about as they inch forward, he rakes his eyes curiously over the other half of the refectory.
The room has been cordoned off down the middle and the other entrance is being used to admit the first years, probably for some sort of 'ice breaker' event. There are banners all around the room with 'WELCOME' in bold yellow letters against a blue background but it’s clear from the first year's pale, worried faces that the signs are doing absolutely nothing to put them at ease. Had he looked that nervous a year ago?
Jaehwan is on the same train of thought as him. "I wonder how Hyuk's getting on?" he muses and Wonshik hums in agreement.
Their younger friend is in the year below and had been left in school while they'd all graduated ahead of him. He’s starting college today, though a different one, the same college that Taekwoon already attends.
"Taekwoon had better be looking after him."
"Hyuk's probably gonna be running him ragged. You know what the dork's like."
Wonshik can't help imagining the two being like something out of a cartoon, Hyuk obliviously skipping across a minefield with Taekwoon bending over backwards in his attempts to avert the hazards. He can't keep back a laugh.
They reach the table eventually and after the staff have sifted through the sheets of paper for their names, they walk away with their new schedules. Wonshik scans his almost feverishly.
"I've got a free period," Jaehwan announces with a whoop. "Lay-ins on Mondays!"
Wonshik on the other hand can't help but groan. He finishes an hour early on Monday and starts an hour late on both Wednesday and Thursday but, other than that, all of his free periods are in awkward places.
"It's not so bad," Jaehwan consoles him. "Look, we've both got fifth set free."
They wait just outside the cafeteria doors for Hakyeon to join them and when he finally emerges, it’s with a smile like a cat that got the cream.
Wonshik groans again. "Don't even tell me."
"What have you got now?" Jaehwan asks.
"Same!" Jaehwan yells and they high-five.
"I'm going to class," Wonshik announces with a pout.
His friends are too busy doing a victory dance to respond and he gives them the finger. A member of staff standing next to the doors gives him a cold stare of admonishment in response to the gesture. He quickly turns away to hide a smirk and hurries outside to the next building over before she can put her displeasure into words.
Once inside, he follows the flow of other students towards the nearest stairwell to make the short climb to his first English class of the year.
* * *
A whole week of college passes in the blink of an eye and it feels to Wonshik as if he's never been away. It isn't that that’s necessarily a bad thing. He enjoys his classes more than enough and the few new teachers he has can't be complained about. Things are no doubt going to step up a notch now that the first week is out of the way and that suits him just fine. So far, it’s been full of course introductions and simple worksheets and he’s looking forward to really getting into the swing of things.
It isn't until the Tuesday of that week that his life takes a significant turn.
It’s time for his third tutor session of the year, and now that the start of year formalities are over, he fully expects the half hour slots in his timetable to become totally null for the rest of the year.
Sure enough, as soon as his teacher has registered them and handed out a flimsy newsletter that includes an article and photographs of the first year's Ice Breaker, they’re dismissed and he trails leisurely from the classroom. The rest of his classmates seem to be in much more of a hurry, so when he reaches the ground floor, the only sounds are his own footsteps and the echoes of teacher's voices from tutor groups that aren't so lucky.
Rounding the banister at the bottom, he comes to a grinding halt when he’s facing the doors.
A man is standing on the other side, snug black jeans moulding perfectly to sculpted thighs and a form fitting white tee accentuating the golden skin of his flexed biceps as he struggles between a large, sealed cardboard box and getting the door open. His tongue is poking out in concentration before retreating so his teeth can sink into a plush bottom lip. He has big dark eyes and black hair sweeping across his forehead, and there’s an ID card hanging around his neck, indicating that he’s a teacher even though he doesn't look like he can be all that much older than Wonshik.
Wonshik stares with his mouth agape, quite sure that this man is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.
Mentally slapping himself back to Earth, he totters forward on wooden legs and pushes open the door, stepping aside to allow the man through as he holds it for him.
The man turns to him and smiles, two perfect dimples blossoming on his cheeks and Wonshik knows it’s game, set, match. His knees tremble and his jaw hangs slack once again.
"Thank you," the teacher says, in a voice at once musical and masculine.
All he can manage is a nod as the man strides inside, following him with his eyes until he disappears around a corner down the corridor – somehow retaining enough sense to not waste his chance to check out the man's back profile as he turns.
Yep. He’s a goner alright.
* * *
Wonshik sees him again later that same day when he, Hakyeon and Jaehwan are sitting in the cafeteria at lunch time. The man strolls in with two other teachers that Wonshik only knows by face and heads straight to the opposite end of the room, but as he passes, Wonshik is graced with a view that the cardboard box had previously been concealing.
The white tee, as it turns out, not only accentuates his arms, but also clings to an impressive set of abs hiding underneath.
Unluckily for Wonshik, he'd been midswallow of a mouthful of water when his eyes fall upon the sight, he tries to swallow, gasp and whimper all at once, resulting in an embarrassing coughing fit, streaming eyes and all.
Judging by the groups of giggling girls all around, it seems this new teacher is quite the hot topic. For some reason, that’s quite an unpleasant realisation.
The teachers turn the corner of the L-shaped room to where the food counters are and return a moment later with their trays which they take back the way they came. Wonshik follows the man with his eyes until he’s out of sight.
After that, the same routine follows every day and Wonshik wonders how he hadn't noticed the older male sooner. If the man's glowing aura had never captured his attention before now, then the wave of silence (and subsequent tittering) that always meets his approach should have.
Wonshik isn't sure when it started, but he realises one day that, as he has nothing else to call him, he's started referring to the teacher as Mr. Sex. It isn't something he'd ever say out loud, but the name is more than fitting. He just wishes he could find out what his real name is.
It isn't until nearly two weeks later that his wish is granted.
His Monday morning free period is just beginning and he’s wasting some time sitting in the cafeteria before heading off to the library when Mr. Sex strides in, a small stack of paper in one hand, a staple gun in the other. Today he’s wearing blue jeans and a red t-shirt with some sort of faded Marvel print.
Wonshik watches as he turns to the notice board just beside the door and holds up one of his sheets of paper, considering where best to place it amongst the myriad announcements. They’re all printed onto coloured paper, all vying for attention, but his are plain white.
With a furtive glance over his shoulder towards a cluster of cafeteria staff loading the vending machines, he slaps the sheet onto the board, front and centre, with no regard for the notices underneath. His full lips are pressed tightly together in an attempt to conceal a cheeky smile but a quivering dimple gives him away.
Wonshik has to stifle a laugh of his own behind his fist.
After smoothing the paper out and firing a staple into each corner, Mr. Sex slips out of the doors and is gone.
Wonshik glances about, nervously licking his lips, but after wondering why he’s acting as if he’s about to do something wrong, he boldly stalks over to the display.
Half covering an advert for a charity cake sale the coming Friday and an inspirational quote from Albert Einstein, Mr. Sex's poster reads:
10 WEEK COURSE, 2HR SESSIONS
EVERY MONDAY AT 3:15, BEGINNING 6TH OCT
WILL COVER: HOW TO USE AN SLR CAMERA, COMPOSITION, DEVELOPMENT AND MORE
SEE MR. LEE IN ROOM A101 TO SIGN UP OR FOR ANY QUERIES
The words are accompanied by the generic clipart of a camera and a roll of film.
Wonshik is surprised. If anything, he would have thought that Mr. Sex would be better suited to being in front of the camera, a born model. It feels like such a waste for him to be behind it.
He stares at the poster for a few long seconds, reading and rereading it, wondering if he dares. Then he notices some small print at the bottom:
ONLY 15 SPACES AVAILABLE
His heart lurches in his chest.
He doesn't want to seem too eager, but if there are only fifteen spaces... The prospect of missing out entirely is almost too much to bear.
Before he even really knows what he’s doing, he’s passed through the double doors of the cafeteria and is making a left towards the art block. It’s only when the entrance is in sight that he slows his pace.
Mr. Sex (Mr. Lee?) is still going around the college putting up his posters, so he won't yet be in the advertised room.
Gnawing on his bottom lip, Wonshik decides to wait where he is, attempting to lean nonchalantly against the wall as he fiddles with his phone. He’s running out of menus to flick through when Mr. Sex finally emerges, posterless, from one of the buildings further down and heads straight for the art block entrance, twirling the staple gun in one hand.
Wonshik gives it another minute before taking a steadying breath and going inside.
The first room on the left side of the corridor is alive with activity. A lot of people are on easels and there’s a steady stream of them going in and out of the store cupboard but it’s a focused, quiet atmosphere.
Art is one of Jaehwan's subjects but Wonshik is glad at the knowledge that his classroom is further down. He doesn't want him to witness what he’s about to do. He’d prefer to tell him about it in his own time.
The room opposite – the one he needs – is empty except for Mr. Sex standing with his back to the door, some cameras sitting on the table in front of him.
Wonshik can't help studying the way the material of his t-shirt stretches over his strong shoulders. An image flashes behind his eyes of sinking his teeth into one of them as Mr. Sex moves above him and he shivers, coming back to himself with a jolt and very warm cheeks.
Taking a quiet, steadying breath, he taps a knuckle twice against the open door and the teacher looks over his shoulder at him.
"Mr.," Sex. "L-Lee?" he asks, giving his inner self a slap.
He's turned his whole body to face him now, giving Wonshik the faint but unmistakable view of the delicate ridges paving his stomach and he can feel his eyes glazing over.
"I'm here about the Photography classes," he answers after bringing himself back to reality, though with much difficulty.
Mr. Lee immediately brightens up. "Oh! Do you want to sign up? Or do you have a question?"
"Okay." Mr. Lee hurries over to the desk at the back of the room and Wonshik follows, watching as the man pulls a sheet of paper out of one of the drawers.
"Are you..." Wonshik pauses to wet his dry lips. "Are you teaching the classes?"
Wonshik's lips twitch, about to say good, but thankfully he manages to rein his tongue in.
"You'll be my first guinea pig," Mr. Lee continues and he elaborates when he catches sight of Wonshik's baffled expression. "I'm just a university student working here for my placement year."
Wonshik's mouth makes an 'o' of understanding. That explains why he looks so young.
"Name?" Mr. Lee looks up at him with wide, expectant eyes as he leans over the desk, pen poised above the piece of paper.
He inwardly winces at his inability to pronounce his own name, but he thankfully has the sense to use Mr. Lee's lowered eyes as a chance to read the ID hanging around his neck.
Lee Hongbin. Teaching Assistant.
He unconsciously mouths the name, stifling a gasp when he realises how close he'd been to saying it out loud.
"Do you take any of the art courses?" Hongbin asks as he carefully prints Wonshik's name.
"What made you decide to take the class?" He looks up to meet Wonshik's eyes and his curious gaze has the truth spilling from his mouth.
"You– Your poster... caught my eye." He winces, this time not so secretly, at his clumsy save though Hongbin thankfully doesn't seem to notice. Instead, he laughs, charming dimples blooming on his cheeks.
"That boring thing? Eye-catching isn't the word I'd use. More like eyesore. I'm not very good with computers so it was about all I could manage. On reflection, I probably should have had someone help me with it but... it caught someone's eye so I guess it wasn't a total failure."
Wonshik nods dumbly and Hongbin's smile falters for a moment before springing back into place.
"And I'm talking too much," he continues, eyes apologetic. "I'm sure you've got a lot of work to be doing. I'll see you in a couple of weeks."
Wonshik nods again before turning on his heel and lurching from the room.
* * *
"Photography?" Hakyeon echoes from his seat beside Wonshik at their table.
It’s lunchtime on the Friday before his first Photography lesson and the cafeteria is full of life, the clatter of plates and cutlery, the wild hum of conversation and the scraping of chairs against the floor permeating the air around them.
After college on Mondays, he'd usually meet Hakyeon and go to his house for dinner but he's informed him, finally, about the classes he's signed up for. It had been difficult to find the courage to bring it up but two weeks have passed, the first lesson is looming ever closer, and he knows he couldn't have put it off any longer.
"What the hell are you doing taking a Photography class?" Hakyeon asks suspiciously.
Wonshik avoids his eyes, opting instead to push a stray pea around his plate with his knife. "I thought it would be interesting," he mutters.
There’s no way in hell that he’s admitting to Hakyeon that his motives are less than savoury.
Hakyeon's eyes remain narrowed and aimed in Wonshik's direction, but he thankfully lets the topic go.
Except Hongbin chooses that moment to enter the cafeteria and Wonshik can't help but reflexively duck his head. For the first time since he's been crushing on Hongbin, it doesn't escape his friend's notice.
"What's up with you?"
"Nothing," he answers, a shade too defensive.
As usual, Hongbin disappears around the corner and returns with his tray a moment later.
Wonshik sinks in his seat again as he gets closer and he’s about to pass by their table when, to Wonshik's utter dismay, Jaehwan raises his hand to wave at him.
Wonshik jerks when Hongbin approaches them, confused when Hongbin winces.
"Oh, Jaehwan," he replies.
Jaehwan laughs. "You're still not used to it?"
"I'm twenty-one. I shouldn't be getting referred to as 'Mister'," he answers with a shudder.
Twenty-one. Wonshik is nearly eighteen. That age difference doesn't look too bad.
Hongbin stands at the head of the table, looking down at them with a now pleasant smile. His eyes meet Wonshik's and Wonshik takes an extreme interest in his fork.
"You've got years of it to look forward to," Jaehwan replies.
"Don't remind me," Hongbin answers with an exaggerated grimace. He sighs. "Well, I'll leave you to it. Don't want my lunch getting cold." He nods his head at Jaehwan then says, "See you on Monday, Wonshik."
Wonshik gives an awkward jolt of his head in return, shrinking in his seat once again as soon as Hongbin's back is turned.
He remembers his name! Wonshik's mind starts racing through all the things that could possibly mean but he crashes to a halt when Jaehwan throws him a provocative smirk. He narrows his eyes in response, only just realising that Jaehwan had called Hongbin over because he knows exactly why he’s taking the classes.
"Who was that?" Hakyeon asks, head whipping between Hongbin's retreating figure and the tips of Wonshik's heated ears.
"The Photography TA," Jaehwan answers smugly when it becomes clear that no answer is forthcoming from Wonshik. "He's teaching the after-college class."
"No!" Hakyeon bellows, eyes wide and mouth open with the beginnings of a delighted grin. "Scandalous behaviour, Wonshik! Absolutely shameful!"
"Shut up, Hakyeon," Wonshik hisses, elbowing the older in the stomach; Hakyeon's shouts are drawing quite a bit of attention.
Hakyeon recoils with a startled oof, but it does nothing to stop his teasing. "You're so baaaaaaaaad!" he whispers loudly in Wonshik's ear and Wonshik swats him away.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he mumbles.
"Are you hoping to do a bit of enlarging? Some exposure?" Jaehwan joins in, wiggling his eyebrows.
"Jaehwan!" Wonshik whines, unable to take it anymore as his two older friends curl into balls of trembling mirth. This was the sort of situation he'd been hoping to avoid. His face flushes dark at the images Jaehwan's words have racing through his mind, making his fingertips tingle. And other parts.
He’s hardly a prude but talking sexually about someone he’s actually going to have to make eye contact with (and a teacher at that!) is straying into dangerous waters. The thought of facing Hongbin now makes him squirm, worried the older male will somehow be able to see straight into his head.
"But what about you?" Wonshik asks Jaehwan, eager to deflect the conversation away from its awkward trajectory. "You don't take Photography, how do you know who he is?"
"If you take an art class it's impossible not to know who he is. You need to battle your way through his admirers as soon as you enter the building." Jaehwan eyes him pointedly. "I can't believe you managed to get a place."
"But how come he knows your name?" Wonshik persists, praying, in light of that new information, that no one will press him to reveal he'd been the first to put his name down.
"I'm Class Rep for my Art class remember? Mr. Lee's been sitting in on the meetings."
Wonshik is startled by a sudden swell of envy at Jaehwan's good fortune.
"I can't believe you're taking a Photography class just to perv on the teacher," Hakyeon sniggers. "Just wait until I tell Taekwoon."
Wonshik opens his mouth to vehemently deny the accusation, but closes it again with a sigh of defeat.
Who is he fooling? That’s exactly his intention.
* * *
Monday arrives and for the first time, Wonshik doesn't see Hongbin at lunchtime. He grows more agitated as the lunch break wears on with no sign of him and Hakyeon starts to snicker.
"Oh man, have you got it bad."
Wonshik is so deflated he can’t even muster an answer.
"He is here today," Jaehwan assures him.
Despite Jaehwan's efforts, it just feels like a bad omen and the rest of the day passes with what feels like a rain cloud floating over his head.
His last class of the day finishes at two o'clock so he would normally have been free to leave. Instead, with a little over an hour to kill, he decides to spend some time in the library, attempting to make a start on some homework for his other subjects, though concentration is in short supply.
The bell rings at three o'clock, signalling the end of the day, and even though Wonshik knows the class doesn’t start for another fifteen minutes – probably to give the attendees a quick break for a snack – he’s unable to occupy himself for a second longer. He tries to walk at a leisurely pace but he still arrives at the art block with over ten minutes to go.
Through the window, he’s relieved to see Hongbin having a chat with the teacher he must be assigned to, his arms crossed over his chest, emphasising his biceps.
Wonshik swallows hard as he lets his eyes trail over his teacher.
It’s if he's pulled out all the stops in preparation for his first lesson. He’s wearing a plain black t-shirt – that, once again, clings to his torso in all the right places – and black jeans with a studded belt that’s only visible because his shirt is caught up behind the buckle. There looks to be a thin gold chain around his neck that dips beneath the neckline of his shirt at the front. All of that would have been enough to bring Wonshik to his knees but it’s nothing compared to his hair. It’s in the same cut as always, black and shiny, but where it’s usually smooth, it’s instead been artfully textured and tousled, sticking out in all the best ways.
Wonshik snaps his jaw shut when Hongbin notices him through the window. He beckons Wonshik inside.
Mentally berating himself when he realises that he's started to tremble, he enters the building and hovers in the doorway to the classroom.
"Take a seat," Hongbin says, waving him towards the many stools in the room.
Now that the window is no longer separating them, Wonshik can see that Hongbin's appearance isn't just stunning. It’s absolutely criminal.
His clothes go flawlessly with his deep, dark eyes and glossy hair and his skin looks like it’s glowing now that the dull glass isn't there to tarnish it. Even his lips look redder, somehow swollen and even more inviting. All in all, he looks like he's just participated in a particularly steamy makeout session in the store cupboard.
That comparison does absolutely nothing for Wonshik's sanity. It’s the first time that he wonders if signing up for these lessons had actually been a good idea. He’s already in need of a bucket of cold water to be dumped over his head and the class hasn't even started!
He perches on a stool at the table nearest the door, still wearing his rucksack, feeling like it will work as some kind of protection against Hongbin's dazzling appearance, a weight to keep him grounded.
Hongbin is checking the cameras Wonshik assumes they’ll be using, the other teacher hovering behind. The teacher soon excuses himself, telling Hongbin that he'll be in the office if he needs anything and that he'll check in on them from time to time. Hongbin nods, totally at ease, and sits behind the desk as soon as he’s gone.
"You're early," Hongbin notes after a few seconds of silence. "Don't you want to take a break and have something to eat?"
"I had a free period," he mumbles.
"So you finished at two? But you're voluntarily staying until quarter past five?" Hongbin sounds amazed and he’s smiling a teasing, though good-natured, smile.
He really is crazy, isn't he? And now Hongbin thinks he has no life. Well, if he has nothing better to do than cater to an irrational crush, that can only be the case. The prospect of finishing at gone five o'clock doesn't feel at all like a chore.
Other students arrive not long after that and Wonshik is half disappointed and half relieved. Receiving Hongbin's full attention is exactly what he'd been dreaming of but it wasn't doing his heart any good. It also gives him a chance to freely study him without the man looking back.
Hongbin already knows all of the students by name and he ticks them off on the register as soon as they enter. Wonshik’s stomach sinks, childishly; he isn't special after all.
Counting the students as they arrive reveals that all of the other attendees are girls. Part of him wants to laugh hysterically in response, but instead, the more rational part has him shrinking dejectedly on his stool. The attentions of these girls are going to be much more of an interest to Hongbin than his.
When everyone is seated, Hongbin wastes no time in starting the lesson. He gives a rough outline of the course, explaining that they'll start with learning the basics about the SLR camera and developing their images and then move onto portraits and will eventually be able to take the cameras outside. He says that they’re restricted by the darkness due to the time of year, but it will give them an opportunity to play around with exposure (Wonshik shifts uncomfortably here) which could produce some interesting effects, especially with a tripod and a moving light source, like car headlights.
He goes on to give a demonstration on how to use an SLR camera, the types of film, the functions of the buttons. Wonshik gets a bit lost when Hongbin is talking about shutter speed and different rings but Hongbin assures them they'll pick it up as they proceed with the lessons. He encourages them to try out the things they learn with digital cameras if they have access to them and just a phone if not.
Wonshik had been imagining that he'd zone out as soon as the lesson starts, content to just look at Hongbin and soak in his voice, eager to hear him talk for an extended period of time. Instead, Hongbin's unmistakeable passion for photography is infectious. He’s paying rapt attention, eyes hungrily following all of Hongbin's gestures, and he finds himself itching to get behind a camera.
After about half an hour, Hongbin informs them that they have six cameras to use between them and they've each already been loaded with a film. He points out the closed door to the left of the room, explaining that it’s called a darkroom and that it will be where they’ll develop some photos in next week's lesson.
When the time comes to divide into groups, Wonshik is more than pleased that the girls split into groups of twos and threes, leaving him with a camera all to himself.
Hongbin directs them to the store cupboard where some objects are kept for still life drawing in art class, which is what will be the focus of their photos for the lesson.
"I know it's not very interesting but it's fine for a bit of practice," Hongbin explains and the girls all pile into the cupboard.
Wonshik trails along behind, taking his pick from what’s left over when they’re all finished. He selects a vase of fake flowers and nearly drops them when he turns around to see Hongbin leaning on the doorframe, watching him. His arms are crossed, showing off his muscles once again and Wonshik can feel himself flush cherry red when he finds himself wishing that Hongbin would come in and shut the door. He’s unable to meet Hongbin's eyes, afraid that the older male will be able to read his thoughts if he does.
He tries to shuffle past but Hongbin doesn't move at his approach, forcing him to squeeze between the older male and the other side of the door frame. Hongbin turns his body as Wonshik moves by him, his abs dangerously close, and Wonshik can't help but inhale deeply, the man's aftershave heady but delicate in his nostrils. Keeping his eyes averted, he heads back to his table.
Needing a moment to collect himself after surviving that sweet torture, he places his vase down and sinks onto his stool, breathing deep lungfuls of fresh air to try and remove the overwhelming scent of Hongbin trapped in his lungs. When he thinks he’s ready, he picks up his camera.
However, now that the time has come, he’s hesitant to begin, all too conscious of the fact that these photos are unable to be deleted. On top of that, the camera doesn't have a screen like he’s used to so he has to make do with looking through what Hongbin had called the viewfinder and hope for the best.
He keeps watching Hongbin out of the corner of his eye as the older male makes his rounds about the room, spending a few minutes with each group. His anxiety grows the closer Hongbin gets.
"Mr. Lee?" one of the girls calls.
There’s a flicker of discomfort in Hongbin's eyes and Wonshik has to stifle a laugh. Does he really hate being called mister that much?
Hongbin leans on the girl’s table to answer the group's questions, but Wonshik isn't listening to what they’re saying. He’s instead entranced by the way Hongbin rests his weight on his palms flat against the table, bent at the waist and t-shirt pulled tight across his shoulder blades.
He can't help imagining what it would be like to insert himself between the two, legs around Hongbin's waist as he thru—
With a thundering heart, he averts his eyes and takes a steadying breath, though he’s unable to keep away for long.
When he looks back, Hongbin is smiling, still patiently answering any questions, and his heart flutters at the sight of Hongbin's dimples. That view never gets old.
He lifts his camera and twists the lens, focusing, not on the flowers in front of him, but Hongbin on the other side of the room, and before he knows what’s happening, his finger hits the shutter release.
A tremor sweeps through him as he inhales sharply. Uh oh.
Swallowing hard, Wonshik shuts his eyes and mentally shakes himself. He'd just twisted the zoom the wrong way and had been too eager with the shutter, that’s all. An easy mistake to make.
Except, he makes the same mistake at least a half dozen more times throughout the duration of the class. The only time Hongbin is safe from his prying lens is when he stands behind him to offer some advice.
Wonshik's hands tremble at their close proximity and Hongbin reaches out to steady them.
"It's okay," Hongbin breathes in his ear. Wonshik is sure the older man hadn't gotten this close with any of the other students but he’s not complaining. "The camera won't bite."
But I wish you would. Wonshik stifles a groan at the voice in his head that’s so clearly been corrupted by Jaehwan and Hakyeon. But he can’t help it. Hongbin is still breathing into his ear, the warm air cascading down the side of his neck, and he can feel his eyelids fluttering at the knowledge that if Hongbin leant forwards just a few inches, he could have the man's teeth grazing at the soft skin beneath his ear.
The scent of Hongbin's aftershave is swirling around him and the man's hands are warm over his, long fingers strong and sure as he expertly twiddles the knobs adorning the top of the camera. He’s whispering all the while about his methods but Wonshik is unable to comprehend a word he’s saying.
It ends with one of Hongbin's fingers pressing down on Wonshik's over the shutter release. Then Hongbin's hands are gone, leaving Wonshik feeling cold and empty.
He turns his head to look up at Hongbin still behind him, hoping to catch a glimpse of the older man's dimpled smile, but his stomach clenches at Hongbin's unreadable expression.
"Keep trying," he says, before striding to the other side of the classroom without another word or glance.
Feeling strangely disheartened, Wonshik takes Hongbin's advice, but after four more photographs – only one (maybe two) being of the older male – the film strains when he tries to wind it and he knows it must be the signal Hongbin had mentioned that means the film has run out.
After throwing a few glances Hongbin's way but finding the older man to be much too preoccupied to notice him, he finally holds his hand in the air.
"Mr. Lee?" he calls, irritated that he's been forced to address Hongbin in a way that he hates but also proud that he'd remembered he and Hongbin aren't – yet – both on first name terms. "I think my film's run out," he continues when he has the man's attention.
"Let's take a look." Hongbin takes the camera from his hand and confirms his suspicions. "Can you remember what to do next?" he asks, holding the camera out for Wonshik to take.
He accepts it hesitantly but is pleased that he can still remember what Hongbin had explained.
After pressing what he thinks is called the rewind release button, he begins to turn the crank in the direction indicated by the arrow and keeps winding until the turns get a bit stiffer. He glances at Hongbin questioningly and the older man nods.
A moment later, the crank twists easily and he knows he's successfully rewound the film. He opens the back of the camera and removes it, slipping it into a canister that Hongbin hands him and popping on the lid.
"I think that's it for you for today," Hongbin says, glancing at his watch, and Wonshik sees there are only ten minutes of the class to go. "If you write your name on here," he continues, collecting a sheet of sticky labels from the teacher's desk, "We'll put it on your canister and then we can get to work developing a few next week."
At the mention of developing his photographs, Wonshik can feel the blood draining from his face, the edges of the canister digging painfully into his hand as he squeezes. He’s loath to let it go when Hongbin holds out his hand for it.
Taking a deep steadying breath, he repeats Hongbin's earlier words to himself. A few. They'll only select a couple and he'll be able to make sure Hongbin doesn't creep into the frame of any of them and everyone will be none the wiser to his disturbing lapses of focus.
He scribbles his name onto one of the stickers and watches Hongbin place it on his canister and move to the back of the room to set it in a draw marked ACC-H.
"See you next week." Hongbin dismisses him with one last smile and Wonshik is embarrassed by the way his stomach sinks when he remembers the childish fantasies he'd been allowing himself all week of being the last to leave and getting a minute or two alone with him. He knows it’s greedy considering he'd already gotten his wish before the class started but he can’t help wanting more.
"Bye," he mumbles, but Hongbin has already turned away to tend to the needs of one of the other students.
He hovers at his table for a moment before plodding from the room with a heavy heart.
He doesn’t even really know why he’s so disappointed. He'd spent the past two hours listening to Hongbin talk about his passion and had been able to stare almost as much as he wished without consequence. What exactly had he been hoping for?
* * *
Another week passes, with only two run-ins with Hongbin outside of the usual lunchtime glimpse.
The first is at the beginning of his morning break on Wednesday when he’s passing the art block. Hongbin is just leaving and their paths cross with a rushed greeting as they each follow the flow of students in opposite directions – well, Hongbin says hello while Wonshik just gapes.
The other is at the end of college on Friday when Jaehwan needs to collect his portfolio from the art block and Wonshik finds an excuse to accompany him.
Hongbin is leaving his classroom just as they pass to exit the building and Jaehwan stops to wait for him as he says his goodbyes to the teacher he’s working with. He’s in the process of buttoning his coat – a smart, double-breasted jacket – arranging his headphones so they dangle over the collar and pulling the strap of his satchel over his head.
Wonshik wants to slip his arms inside and around Hongbin's waist and have the older male wrap it cosily around them both. He stifles a sigh of longing.
Once Hongbin is ready to brave the dull, windy October weather, he falls into step beside them.
"Any plans for the weekend?" he asks and Jaehwan immediately rattles off a list but Wonshik is so intent on naturally placing one foot in front of the other that he doesn’t catch a word of it. His hands grip the straps of his rucksack with almost white-knuckled ferocity.
"What about you, Wonshik?" Hongbin asks, leaning forward slightly to glance at him around Jaehwan.
"Huh? Oh. Nothing really." His answer makes the conversation fall painfully flat, and if he hadn't been accompanied by Jaehwan, it probably would have stayed that way. But Jaehwan has the ability to start a conversation with absolutely anyone about absolutely anything and he manages to salvage the awkward atmosphere as Wonshik hovers beside them like a black hole.
Hongbin accompanies them to the college entrance and their pace slows when they reach the gates.
"I'm going this way, so I'll see you next week," Hongbin says, gesturing towards the bus stop a few yards down the road.
"Have a nice weekend," Wonshik manages to force out.
"You too," Hongbin replies, his smile heating Wonshik's wind-whipped cheeks.
As he and Jaehwan walk down the road in the opposite direction, he can’t help glancing back at Hongbin now waiting at the bus stop amongst gaggles of students. It’s dark but he can just make the older man out by the headlights of passing cars, hands in his pockets, headphones in his ears, isolating him from the students around. It has a strange jolt going through him as he realises how juvenile they all must seem to him, the university student. Wonshik can remember how he'd felt when he'd first moved up to college and had looked back at the kids still in school. He imagines the jump to university would come with a similar sensation.
Their age gap suddenly doesn’t feel so small anymore and Monday no longer looks so appealing.
* * *
The weekend comes and goes without any highlights and the prospect of his second lesson with Hongbin does nothing to lift his dampened spirits. He's been dwelling on his last sighting of the older male all weekend, unable to shake the idea that Hongbin will never be able to see him as more than a child. His mood sinks even further every time a small voice at the back of his mind pipes up with He doesn't even like men anyway.
Wonshik stabs angrily at a piece of chicken with his fork, looking up when Jaehwan joins him at his cafeteria table.
"Where's Hakyeon?" he asks when he realises his friend is alone.
"You haven't heard? He and Taekwoon broke up."
"Again?" Wonshik groans. He can’t believe he hadn't heard about it yet. It’s already lunchtime but it’s the first time he's had a break to see his friends all day, too busy drowning in a heinous amount of homework instead, so he’s only just been made aware of Hakyeon's absence.
"This time it's final," Jaehwan answers, with the air of a person parroting someone else's declaration.
"They say that every time."
Wonshik can understand Jaehwan's total lack of regard, but he knows that if he didn't contact Hakyeon soon, he'll be added to his bad books.
Where are you? He texts him. He doesn’t even have to wait a minute before receiving a reply.
The total lack of punctuation and emoticons has Wonshik sighing. Before he can muster up a reply of his own, a second text comes through.
i dont want to be alone
Wonshik sighs again, knowing that a good friend would drop all of their classes and hurry over but feeling ashamed that he’s deeming Hakyeon's situation as not all that important. He knows Hakyeon will be feeling bad but he and Taekwoon will be back together before the week is through, heartbreak forgotten.
I finish at 2 today. I'll come and see you then. It’s only after he's hit send that an icy hand grips his stomach and he sits bolt upright. His Photography class! They’re developing the photos!
He forces himself to take a steadying breath. Photography starts at three. All he has to do is run over to Hakyeon's, show his face, baby him for half an hour, then run back in time to intercept his roll of film and burn it if need be.
But when he rings Hakyeon's doorbell a couple of hours later and is greeted by a red-eyed, snotty-nosed, trembly-chinned mess, he realises, with a plummeting stomach, that he won’t be leaving the house at any point in the near future.
He follows his sniffling friend up to his room and watches as Hakyeon wraps his duvet around himself like a shroud. Taking a seat next to him, Wonshik puts his arm around Hakyeon's trembling shoulders and they sat like that for a long while.
"Have you heard from Taekwoon?" he eventually asks.
His mention of the ex-boyfriend's name is met with a shuddering sob.
"He's such a bastard," Hakyeon whispers.
Wonshik can’t keep his eyes off of the clock hanging on Hakyeon's wall, all too aware of how time is speeding up just as he needs it to go slower.
It gets to three o'clock and he knows he can’t push it any longer.
"Hakyeon? I've got my Photography class so I need to go," he mumbles awkwardly.
Hakyeon hiccups and turns to face him, eyes wide and bloodshot and swimming in tears.
Wonshik stares back at him, body turning numb as his life force drains away.
Keep his friends or drop out of college? Going by the look in Hakyeon's eyes, he doesn’t have a choice.
Three-fifteen comes and goes, as does four o'clock and he spends all of that time repeating It's okay over and over in his head like a mantra, staring blankly at the opposite wall as Hakyeon repeats, for the third time, the grievous – read frivolous – argument that had sparked this whole hellish situation.
He'll leave your roll of film in the drawer. He's not going to touch it. No one will. He'll just make you do it next week. Stay calm. Stay calm. Oh God.
Five o'clock starts to approach and Wonshik knows that Hakyeon's parents will soon be finishing work. Hakyeon's mother will come home and offer him dinner as she usually does and he'll have no way of refusing.
At five-fifteen, tears start to prick at his eyes and he’s on the verge of tearing Hakyeon's duvet off of him and curling up in it to bawl himself into insanity when the doorbell rings.
"I'll get it," he announces, numbly.
He descends the stairs on legs like noodles and is tempted to burst into tears and throw a punch when he opens the door to reveal Taekwoon.
Instead, he does neither, just waves Taekwoon inside and sinks down to pull his shoes on in such a rush that his laces get pushed inside and tangle between his toes and socks. He doesn’t even spare Taekwoon a greeting before swiping up his bag and tearing out of the house and down the street like a firework.
It’s almost half past five by the time he arrives at college, panting and shaking.
Most of what he can see of the campus is dark except for the bottom floor of the drama building where he can catch a glimpse of a cleaner moving back and forth with a vacuum.
He rounds the main building that houses reception and the cafeteria, and his legs go weak when he sees the lights are still on in the Art block, though if it’s out of relief or disappointment, he can’t tell.
He lays a tentative hand on the door handle when he reaches it and gives a gentle push, half expecting the doors to have been locked already. It swings open beneath his palm and he creeps down the corridor to the first door on the right, peering carefully through the windows.
The room is empty.
With a quick glance up and down the corridor, he darts inside and makes a beeline for the ACC-H drawer. He shrugs off his rucksack and sets it by his feet, ready to put his film inside.
Heart in his mouth, he grips the handle of the drawer in trembling fingers and slides it open.
An audible sigh of relief permeates the room when he spots his lone canister rolling about in the bottom. He reaches in and picks it up and then thinks he’s about to be violently sick.
Because it’s empty.
He tries to breathe, but the air has either gone too thin or his lungs no longer know what to do with it because his vision swims and he has to lay a hand on the desk to steady himself.
After a moment of deliberation, he knows there’s only one option left to him.
He turns to face the door that leads to the darkroom and marches over to it, swaying as if he’s walking on stilts.
Inside, the room smells similar to the sharp tang of vinegar, probably a result of the different chemicals used to develop photographs, and it does nothing to improve his nausea. The eerie glow of the red safelight is illuminating a scene from his worst nightmare.
All of his photos of Hongbin are hanging from the line stretching across the room in front of the door. All of them. Not a single one is of the flowers he'd meant to be capturing. There’s the one that he'd planned to pretend was just an accident, the one where Hongbin had crouched down to pick up a group's upset fruit bowl, the one where Hongbin had stood to gaze out of the window during a quiet moment. Even the most outrageous one where he'd seen Hongbin stretching onto his tiptoes to reach a book about a famous photographer on a shelf in the corner of the room nearest Wonshik's table. He'd snapped it just as a strip of golden skin had been revealed between the hem of Hongbin's t-shirt and the royal purple waistband of his boxers peeking enticingly above his jeans. He'd be lying if he said the memory hadn't been haunting him with some very hot and bothering thoughts all week.
He stands rooted to the spot, wondering whether to just turn and run and never show his face at college ever again or to tear them all down and deny their existence. He’s saved the trouble of making a decision when the door clicks shut behind him.
He stiffens, shoulders hunched, listening to the footsteps at his back. He’s all too aware that he doesn’t have his rucksack to protect him.
"Wonshik." Hongbin's voice, low and filled with an emotion Wonshik can’t place (though probably revulsion), has his knees knocking, unable to turn around. He feels like a fly caught in a web, an unfortunate who’s stumbled into a monster's lair.
"Sorry, Mr. Lee. There was an emergency so I c-couldn't make it to class." Damn you, Cha Hakyeon!
Hongbin's footsteps circle around him.
"Th-that's all I came to say. Bye!" He spins round, making sure he keeps his back to him, and gropes madly for the door handle, getting it open all of three inches before a hand collides with the door beside his head and slams it shut.
He’s sure he can feel his soul leaking out of his mouth.
"Missing the class set you behind everyone else so I took the liberty of developing your photos myself. I hope you don't mind." Hongbin's voice is honey in his ears.
"M-Mind? N-No... I-I—"
"You've got a real gift for candid photography. I especially like how you captured my profile." He feels Hongbin’s breath at his ear as he makes a sound of amusement.
Hongbin is laughing at him! His ears burn at the humiliation and tears begin to well in his eyes. He tugs on the door handle desperately, but to no avail. Hongbin is leaning all of his weight against his palm still pressed to the varnished wood beside Wonshik's head. In fact, his efforts just make Hongbin push forward harder, now with both hands, his whole body pressing up against Wonshik's.
By this point, Wonshik is weak in the knees and all but panting, from nerves but also from a sick sense of excitement. He’s confined in a dark, secluded room with a man he very much desires pressed flush against his back, alarmingly similar to many fantasies that he's been allowing himself (despite earlier claims that those sorts of thoughts were a bad idea). It doesn’t help that the chemicals are making him light-headed.
"Look at me," Hongbin murmurs in his ear.
Wonshik shuts his eyes tightly and shakes his head. He wants to stay in this dark room and never face the light of day ever again, have it swallow him whole.
Hongbin's hand lowers from the door to grab his shoulder, clearly intent on spinning him round to face him, but it’s a pivotal mistake. Wonshik takes his chance in both hands, literally, and wrenches open the door. He sprints across the classroom, scooping up his bag on the way and grabbing the door frame to swing himself round into the corridor outside, ignoring Hongbin's calls of his name ringing out behind him.
* * *
He doesn’t sleep that night. Worry bubbles incessantly beneath his skin: that he'll have to see Hongbin again, that he'll tell people, that he'll report him to administration for his... unhealthy behaviour.
The nausea that had settled in since he found his empty canister remains well into the next day. He'd been unable to get out of bed in the morning and his mother had taken one look at his grey complexion and shut his bedroom door again. He spends the rest of the day wrapped in his duvet, much like Hakyeon had the day before.
Hakyeon! Taekwoon. The pair make him seethe even though he knows the situation is a result of his own idiocy. He shouldn't have let himself be swayed by Hakyeon's teary eyes. He shouldn't have taken the Goddamn pictures!
His phone buzzes on the nightstand next to him but he doesn’t want to look. It would be Hakyeon asking if the creepy rumours are true or Jaehwan to say he's seen the photos.
He flushes hot and cold, hot and cold at the thought of other people seeing them. He'll never be able to show his face in front of anyone at college ever again. He'll have to avoid his friends forever.
That thought has him bolting upright. It’s nearly one o'clock which means Jaehwan will be finishing college in a little over an hour. What if he's text to say he’s coming over?
Wonshik fumbles with his phone, trepidation forgotten in his moment of terror, but he’s surprised to find the texts he's received are... normal. Things like Where are you? and Are you okay? (ó﹏ò｡).
But are they too normal?
Wonshik forces himself to ignore the doubt creeping up his spine and sends an identical text to both of them.
I'm just sick. Don't come round. I don't want you catching it.
A text comes through from Jaehwan immediately that has Wonshik's stomach lurching.
Mr. Lee was asking after you at lunch time. I thought that might cheer you up a bit~!
No, Jaehwan, it certainly doesn't, Wonshik thinks to himself miserably.
He doesn’t reply and his friends remain silent after that.
For the rest of the day he doesn’t eat, even when his mother brings a meal to his room. She feels his temperature with her hand and says they'll see how he feels in the morning.
Thankfully, he manages to squeeze out another day off but, come Thursday, his mother is rousing him from bed and forcing breakfast in front of him.
"I don't start until ten today!" he whines.
"I know, but if I leave you won't get up at all. Now, text Jaehwan and tell him to meet you here. Yes, right now," she orders in response to his grumbling.
She hovers over his shoulder and watches to make sure he does it. "You'll feel better with a bit of fresh air," she promises, kissing him lovingly on the cheek. He can’t help but eye her with a bit of resentment.
Jaehwan turns up at half past nine and they begin a slow, meandering walk to college.
"You really don't look so good," Jaehwan comments.
"No, really. Are you sure you can't stay home again?"
Wonshik sighs. There’s honestly nothing that he would have liked more (well, other than the ability to erase the past two weeks from history) but he knows he'll have to face college sooner or later and, until he does, his 'illness' isn't going anywhere.
He’s expecting to arrive to everyone pointing and laughing at him. Instead, everyone is moving about their lives as usual and he’s free to go to his classes without a fuss. He keeps a frantic eye out for Hongbin but, other than that, things feel just like normal. Now, if he can just keep this up for the rest of the year...
At lunchtime, he goes to the library but doesn’t tell Jaehwan or Hakyeon of his whereabouts until afterwards. Perhaps he’s being too paranoid, but he’s worried that Hongbin will 'ask after him' again and the only way he'll be able to get his friends to lie would be to tell them about the situation. And that’s most definitely not going to happen.
Luckily, he only has one sighting of Hongbin all day and it’s from an upper floor window where the older male would be unable to reach him even if he'd spotted him too.
Somehow, he'd forgotten how handsome he is. The brightness of his smile, the line of his jaw. It makes him ache.
He feels more optimistic Friday morning, even though he knows that it’s more statistically probable that he'll run into Hongbin as more time passes. However, it will soon be the weekend and he'll have two worry-free days to collect his thoughts and try to come up with some sort of explanation for the photographs.
The first part of the morning goes by without incident, but on his way to his tutor session at eleven o'clock, he has to pass through the double doors where he'd first seen Hongbin. It feels like returning to a scene where he'd made memories with an old sweetheart and he hates himself for the infantile sensation.
He grinds his teeth as he trudges up the stairs to his tutor room and his teacher's face lights up when he sees him. "Wonshik!" He fumbles around in one of the drawers of his desk and then withdraws a sealed, brown A4 envelope. "This is from Mr. Lee."
Wonshik all but snatches the envelope from his tutor's hands and hugs it to his chest, flushing all the way to the tips of his ears. He knows exactly what’s inside it and is horrified that Hongbin could be so careless with them. Anyone could have opened it!
His tutor looks a bit troubled by his behaviour but doesn’t comment on it. "He dropped it off on Tuesday and seemed quite desperate for you to go and see him in his classroom. We won't be doing anything of importance for the rest of the period, so you can go now."
Wonshik has absolutely no intention of going to see Hongbin but he leaves the room regardless, shuffling to the door like a crab in order to keep the envelope hidden from the rest of the class. He feels as if everyone in the room would be able to see straight through the brown paper concealing his greatest shame.
He bursts out onto the stairwell and leans over the banister to check that all the floors are empty before wedging himself into a corner and sliding down the wall. He tears open the envelope with trembling hands, needing to see if his suspicions are correct.
They are. All of his photos are inside and he sifts through them slowly, his nausea returning. He saw these, he saw these, he thinks, over and over as he makes his way deeper through the pile.
Then he reaches a photo of himself and he freezes, staring at it totally nonplussed.
It’s a printed photograph and is half the size of his developed photos, meaning that it must have been taken with a digital camera.
In the picture, he’s wearing his red and black check shirt and he’s laughing, looking off at something to the left. In the background he can glimpse a section of a sign with the letters 'LCOM'.
The photo had been taken on the first day back at college as he waited in the queue to receive his timetable, and if he’s remembering correctly, it was the moment that Jaehwan had predicted Hakyeon and Taekwoon's break-up.
He can remember the flimsy newsletter his tutor had handed out in their second week. He'd only given it a glance but the front page was something about a successful first day for the first years and there had been photos of the event. Hongbin must have been tasked with photographing it.
Does this mean that Hongbin had seen him first?
I need to sit down, he thinks to himself, shakily, and then realises he already is.
He moves on to the next photograph. It’s another one of himself, from the same day, this time with an innocent pout as he stares at something in the distance.
The one after that has a post-it note stuck over his face that reads: This one's my favourite. It’s written in the same handwriting that Wonshik can remember from witnessing Hongbin write down his name. He peels the sticky note off to reveal a photo where he’s mid-yawn, his cheeks slightly puffed up from trying to contain it and one of his eyes squinting. Even he has to admit that he looks kind of cute.
He’s blushing now and has the beginnings of a blissful smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
The next photograph has another wave of shock going through him.
This time it’s a developed photo like the ones he'd taken, and also like his pictures, it had been taken during the Photography class. How had Hongbin...?
He remembers Hongbin giving them a demonstration on how to use an SLR camera and that he'd made a point to say there was no film in it. Then he'd pressed the shutter release.
The sneaky bastard!
In the photograph, it’s clear that he was paying no attention to the camera as he should have been, totally entranced, instead, by the photographer.
The final photograph in the pile is strangely romantic.
It’s the photo they'd taken together of the flowers and just looking at it sent him back to the classroom: Hongbin's comforting presence behind, warm hands against his and the cosy fragrance of his aftershave. He closes his eyes to bask in the sensation but a door banging open on the floor below has him falling from his cloud with a jolt.
He carefully slides the photographs back into the envelope and hugs it to his chest, his smile now spreading fully across his cheeks. He tries not to let his imagination get away from him but it’s so difficult. Here are photos all but proving that Hongbin feels the same way. What else can they mean? Why would Hongbin have these photos, focused solely on him, when he was supposed to be photographing other people (or no one at all)?
Biting his lip in attempt to contain his emotions, he climbs to his feet, knowing that he really can’t avoid Hongbin any longer.
He hobbles to the art block with legs of lead, hands trembling when he reaches out to open the door. At the classroom, he plants his feet in the doorway.
The art teacher is leading the tutoring session, with Hongbin sitting at the back of the room.
The breath leaves Wonshik's lungs when he lays eyes on him, suddenly all too aware that there’s no way someone so beautiful could actually return his feelings. But it’s too late to leave now; Hongbin notices him immediately.
The older male stands up abruptly and the teacher stutters to a halt.
"I asked Wonshik to see me about his Photography work," Hongbin explains.
"Okay." The teacher waves him in but Wonshik's feet will no longer move. "Well, come in," the teacher commands, impatiently. The class watches him curiously as he stumbles inside, following Hongbin into the darkroom.
Hongbin puts on the normal light this time. Wonshik is glad; if it had been the safelight again, he’s sure it would trigger some sort of breakdown.
"Shut the door," the older male orders, his expression stony.
Wonshik trembles as he closes the door behind him, knowing that there will be no going back once it’s sealed.
As soon as it clicks shut, Wonshik finds himself gasping aloud because Hongbin hooks his hand around his neck and crashes their lips together in a searing kiss that has Wonshik groaning low in his throat. He’s glad there’s no one to witness such a shameful display. And, of course, because he most definitely should not be kissing a teacher, assistant or no. Yes. Of course. That’s the real problem here.
But then Hongbin backs him gently against the door, one arm snaking round to press his palm against Wonshik's lower back, bringing him closer, and he no longer cares if someone sees.
He feebly clutches at Hongbin's upper arms, knees weak, trying not to whimper as Hongbin tilts his head to kiss him even more deeply.
When they eventually part, Wonshik's head falls back against the door with a thunk. They stare at each other, wide-eyed, waiting for someone to check if everything’s okay inside. When they’re sure no one’s coming, shy grins of relief tug at their lips and Wonshik can’t hold Hongbin's gaze.
"If you'd have just turned around on Monday, we could have gotten to this part a lot sooner," Hongbin whispers, stroking his thumb over the skin beneath Wonshik's ear.
Hongbin shushes him with another kiss, teasing brushes of his lips that have Wonshik pushing forward needily. Hongbin smiles against him.
Is this... really happening? He pulls back and studies Hongbin's face, from his bright eyes to the swell of his lips to his emerging dimples, absolutely floored that he would want to give him more than a second glance. He's never truly believed that his wishes would come true.
Hongbin's body is warm and firm against his and he can’t keep from pressing a hand to his abdomen, marvelling at the hard muscle beneath his shirt. He’s definitely real.
Hongbin laughs and eyes Wonshik with a raised eyebrow.
"Sorry," he says, quickly pulling his hand away, but Hongbin puts it back and places one of his own on top of it.
"You know... at first, I just thought you were probably jealous of my body."
It’s Wonshik's turn to laugh, though his is incredulous. "What?"
"You were always checking me out—" (Wonshik grimaces at his lack of subtlety) "—but it was too much to hope that you could actually want me too."
Hongbin kisses him again with a sigh and Wonshik knows they’re both thinking that too much time has passed with too little kissing.
"I couldn't believe my luck when you signed up," Hongbin mumbles against his lips.
Wonshik shivers. Had Hongbin been as nervous as he was when he put his name down for the classes? He definitely hadn't shown it. Had he remembered his name because it was important to him? And what about that moment where he'd blocked his way out of the store cupboard? Had that been because he wanted to get closer?
Hongbin's lips are moving languidly against his, tongue snaking out to lick its way into Wonshik's mouth, and he realises with a jolt that the answer to all of those questions could very well be yes.
Wonshik thinks his heart is going to beat out of his chest when he tastes him and he can’t keep one of his hands from fisting at Hongbin's t-shirt, the other tangling in his hair, moaning around the his tongue as he feels how soft the strands are.
Hongbin withdraws to trail kisses along Wonshik's jaw and down his neck where he nips lightly with his teeth and begins to suck.
"Hongbin!" Wonshik whispers in warning, trying to move Hongbin's head away. How is it going to look if he exits the room with a lovebite he most definitely didn't have when he entered it?
Hongbin groans against his neck. "Say it again."
Wonshik wasn't even aware he'd said it, already so used to referring to Hongbin that way in his head. He’s lucky that he's never – yet – used it in a more public setting.
For his second utterance, it’s barely a breath past his lips as he tastes the two syllables on his tongue.
Hongbin sighs and leans his head against Wonshik's shoulder. After a few seconds, he speaks.
"I'm sorry I frightened you," he apologises, quietly. "With the pictures. I didn't mean for you to get so worked up." Wonshik can actually hear the pain in his voice. "I just wanted to surprise you and then show you that I felt the same way. I had the pictures of you with me and everything."
"It's okay." Maybe he'll find the energy to get mad at him later but, in this moment, all he cares about is the fact that he’s in Hongbin's arms with the older male placing fluttery kisses along his jaw.
"I've got another confession to make," Hongbin says, pulling back to meet Wonshik's eyes. "I took a look at your film as soon as the first class was over." He waits for the information to sink in.
The revelation sets Wonshik's cheeks aflame.
"So you knew all week?" he shrieks and Hongbin hurries to place a hand over his mouth, biting his lip to hold in a laugh.
Wonshik glares at him over his fingers. That means, on the Friday when they'd walked out of college together, Hongbin already knew about his shameful secret. He tries to remember anything Hongbin did that could have given him away but he'd either been too focused on appearing normal himself or Hongbin hadn't let anything slip.
"Forgive me?" Hongbin asks innocently, though he’s unable to keep a straight face for long.
Wonshik tries to bite his palm in response and Hongbin withdraws his hand with a giggle. Wonshik catches it in one of his and laces their fingers together experimentally.
"You know... I don't actually give a damn about photography," he admits.
"Didn't think so."
Hongbin presses their lips together again and Wonshik shuts his eyes, but pulls away to add, "Unless you're involved."
He feels Hongbin's lips curve into a smile against his and then he stops thinking for a long while, focusing only on the feeling of Hongbin against him: the softness of his mouth, the warmth of his body, the strength in his shoulders. He feels electric, a fire devouring him from the inside out, and Wonshik never wants to let go. Whenever his lungs cry out for breath, they’re filled with his scent; he’s surrounded by him, drowning.
The kiss eventually begins to slow, though none of the passion dies, and the passing of time begins to sink in.
"We've been in here too long," Wonshik mumbles into Hongbin's mouth.
"I know." Hongbin doesn’t stop kissing him and he knows that translates to I don't care.
After a minute more, Hongbin pulls away and opens his eyes to regard Wonshik with what he thinks could be classed as adoration, though the idea feels entirely foreign to him and has the heat in his cheeks intensifying.
Then Hongbin's smile turns playful.
"If you don't turn up for next week's class, I'll have to punish you," he whispers. "It's such a coveted spot, it would be a shame to waste it on someone not fully committed."
Wonshik silences him with another kiss. He'll be at the class.
But maybe he'll request a punishment anyway.